Paul Brown Stadium
July 30, 2014
* *"Our day off yesterday came at a good point. We've had a good run -- five days on the field and six days overall. We've been able to give some of our more veteran players some more rest and time off, based on their orthopedic needs and so forth. Some of them will actually get two days in a row off and rest a little bit today. It's worked well. We'll return a couple guys to practice today with Marquis Flowers and Geno Atkins, so they will getting to work back into the swing of things as we go.
You said in the beginning that you just wanted to get your eyes on Geno for a few days. What did you see that assured you that today would be the day he was ready?
* *"I was assured through the people that work with him daily that he was at the point where he could come back and practice on a limited basis and work his way in to begin the regular season."
How much does Geno change what you guys can do defensively when he is in there and at his best?
* *"Geno has developed into one of the better pass rushers in the interior line in the game. He creates an issue for one-on-one matchups. He's done a real good job of growing and really playing well in the run game. His coming back adds a strength to the interior of the defensive line. Hopefully we continue to create issues in the middle of the line, which makes it better for your outside rushers."
The fact that you were able to adjust without him and still play well has to give you a good feeling...
* *"We've got some guys who have played. Brandon Thompson accepted the role and did well in it (when Atkins was injured last year). Devon Still unfortunately lost part of the season. Christo Bilukidi, David King the guys that are playing in there now, the guys that rotated in during third downs and so forth, we've got some experience doing it. But right now that's not worth anything. We've got to go out and do everything from ground zero from the start, and that's really what matters. It doesn't matter what we did a year ago. We don't get anything for that."
You lost some very qualified coordinators. What does it say about the organization that you have the staff where you could promote Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther and not have to scramble to find replacements?
* *"We were fortunate to have that plan in place. We were able to go ahead and execute it. The timing of when Jay (Gruden) and Mike (Zimmer) were offered head coaching positions, and they accepted them, played into that. It couldn't have played any better for me. It made for a much easier transition and one with not much angst, which was good. I think it was good for our players as well to know that they can continue on basically with people who knew them. They knew their temperament back and forth, and that's good. These guys were able to come in, and pick up where we left off and continue to move forward."
Obviously they have different personalities, and a different voice on both sides of the ball...
* *"They both assume way bigger roles. Hue has been a play caller in the NFL before, where this is going to be Paul's first exposure to actually being the play caller. It's one thing to suggest, but it's another to be in charge of it (laughs). You can suggest and say 'Well you didn't quite hear me right.' Then you get real quiet when you're asked for something (laughs). It's going to be fun. I know it's going to be an exciting time for Paul. We start in Kansas City a week from tomorrow, and you're put in the spotlight to call your first NFL game. I don't quite remember my first preseason game, but I remember my first regular season game doing that. It's different."
How did that first game go for you?
* *"Well, we won which is the most important thing. It's just different. As a coordinator, you're going to continue to grow. When I came to the NFL, I had no idea what that title meant. It means a lot here. It means a lot more generally than in college football. The coordinator is given a responsibility where for the most part he is in charge of half the football team. We've been a staff that's had a lot of involvement here with everybody. I have not had coordinators where we have not allowed our coordinators to dictate this. I want them to go through the installation and what we're doing with the development of the game plan with everyone included. This is, again, Paul's first exposure to it. Hue's had great experience in doing it a couple times, then becoming a head coach where he was still a play caller. It'll be fun."
In terms of your young guys learning how to practice, you have OTAs, minicamps and you learn the tempo. Then you put the pads on. How are the young guys adapting to that?
* *"I've been pleased with how we've adapted to practice at the NFL level with pads -- full pads or shoulder pads. We'll practice in shoulder pads the next couple of days, as we cruise into Friday evening, where we'll go full pads and we'll possibly get some live work in, then the weekend on Saturday. It's another step in the progression particularly for linemen, for lead blockers, linebackers that are having the collision-type areas."
How much do you think the guys are looking forward to the first preseason game?
* *"I would hope they would get excited about it, particularly if you're a young guy. Even some of our older guys are coming back from injury, and it's our first opportunity to go out there and play against somebody else. It gets old practicing against your teammates all the time. How many times can Terence Newman go against A.J. Green or Leon Hall against A.J. Green in practice? It will be good to practice against some good players from another team."
How do you measure growth of Andy Dalton day-by-day?:
"I think Andy continues to grow as the leader of this team. Throwing the ball away, he has not had a problem with that, and we don't ever want that to creep in where you don't, where you try to do too much with the football. You've got to maintain the ball and live to play another down as much as possible. From his very first training camp here in 2011, he was poised at doing some of those things very well. We want to continue on that path. It's kind of Hue's first exposure around him, being able to be that critical of him that way, and look at him with such critical eyes."
You've had pretty good ball security in camp and not a lot pre-snap penalties. What does that say about everyone's focus? "I hope that we have a pretty good understanding of responsibilities and focus. When you understand and know your job in and out, then you reduce a lot of that anxiety, and you ought to be able to concentrate on some of the things and the details which really matter. We don't want to have pre-snap fouls, things that are basically a mental error, just as bad as an assignment error. We want to continue to limit those. We did get off to a really good start, and as we've added things, and it got a little hot and steamy out there, and some of those things creep in, and that comes from maybe not being as focused. So it was good to see us get that back over the last couple of practices and do a better job of that. Now coming off a day off, we need to have just that much focus, and we'll work hard to get their attention right away today."
Going back to Andy Dalton, how does the person you see at training camp today compare to the guy you first saw when you first got here?
"I think the guy that first came here would have walked into my office like he did the very first day he came back last Monday. The guy last year would have taken two or three days to walk in. It's just how he carries himself that way. The football team looks at him as the leader, and that's a good thing. We were in a different situation in 2011 when Andy got here, and he really showed his composure and his makeup by dealing with that very well."
The weather has been like San Diego so far. What's your feeling on it?
"We're about to move (laughs). I would like it to be a little hotter, a little warmer, but I guess be careful what you wish for, because generally when the start of the season rolls around, it's been invariable that that week we're preparing for the first opponent, we've gotten back to the 93-94 degrees with the 60 percent humidity. We'll get there. Our guys are working well, the way we're running to the football, and we're getting that work in and conditioning. Guys that feel like they're not getting enough, they're getting running in after practice."
Talk about what you've seen of Darqueze Dennard so far...
"Darqueze Dennard in my eyes has been very impressive thus far. Somebody told me this, because I probably would have never read it myself, but I was told that one of his inadequacies was possibly playing the ball down the field. And sometimes I think college corners get knocked for that, particularly if they were a physical player in college. But one of the things that's impressed me so much is his ability to track and play the football on vertical throws. If you want to be a great corner at this level, you have to have those capabilities, and he's shown those thus far. When Leon (Hall) wasn't working with our first group, Darqueze was out there from day number one in some of the substituted defensive units. He handled those things very well mentally. Some things were new to him, but he didn't make the same mistake twice."
Margus Hunt was candid the other day that he was really lost at this time last year, but how big of a leap has he made?
"I think he's made a huge, huge, huge leap. We didn't know that Margus would get an opportunity to play much football last year, but when Robert (Geathers) got hurt, and Geno (Atkins) got hurt, he got to play quite a bit more than we would have expected so we're reaping the benefit of that now. The fact he got experience out there on an NFL field, and now you see the confidence, and you see the things like what we're talking about with Andy Dalton, the fact that he's now played. Margus now understands what to do, and he understands the tempo and the things that we were trying to get him to understand at this point last May, last June and in training camp. Now he understands, and so you're able to go beyond that. He's one of the guys I'm excited to see play next Thursday night in Kansas City."
With guys who have been injured, like Mike Pollak and Clint Boling, you're giving them days off. Does that accentuate your roster depth that when those guys are rotating in and out like that that you are still able to practice the way you guys practice?
"I think we're giving guys that we would like to move up the ladder more opportunity. The more opportunity you get as a young guy, the more comfortable you are when you get a chance to play live football. As a coach, particularly in my responsibility, I want to make sure we get these guys reps, so that we know that we're getting a good look at them and a good honest evaluation. We're not evaluating what they know, we're evaluating how they play. These guys are getting a good opportunity to get practice reps so that we'll feel good about putting them out there in the preseason."